In Jacksonville, Florida and other portions of North Florida, the courts are not typically keen on a 50/50 visitation schedule in a divorce or paternity matter. Visitation and custody battles in Florida have taken a legal overhaul in the last few years by the legislature so as to help parents not fight from the very beginning. The changes have impacted how we refer to these issues of visitation and custody by referring to these topics as time-sharing and parenting plans. In a Florida divorce or paternity case, the goal is for the court, the parties, and their respective attorneys, to reach a conclusion that is in the best interest of the children. However, many parents have interpreted time-sharing language to mean that they start and end with equal visitation with the kids. However, the impact the schedule may have on the children is not necessarily in their best interest because parents have different ways of parenting, doing homework, establishing chores, and the like. So, the courts have tried to look at many factors in determining time-sharing plans, including the above listed things, the proximity of the parent to the kids’ schools, the communication between the parents, the relationship of the parents with the kids, etc.
In Florida, determining a time-sharing plan that works for the parents and the children can be a challenge. Often, parents feel that they want 50/50 time-sharing for multiple reasons, sadly, including the fact that it will reduce their child support obligation. Parents have to understand that whether the children are living in your house 50% of the time or spending 90 overnights (i.e. standard guideline time-sharing in North Florida) you are still paying for them, just the payments are different. Child support is determined by a state regulated child support calculations that factors in things like the income of both parties, which parent is paying for health insurance and daycare for the kids, etc. By looking at the incomes of the parties, the calculation actually determines what the household income for the child would be had the parents lived together. Then, based on the overall household income, the money is based on each parent’s contribution thereto. For example, if the household income would be $100,000 and each parent makes $50,000, then each parent’s pro rata share is 50% of the household income. Then, credits are given for the party making health insurance and daycare payments.
Parents, child support is not designed to punish the party that does not have majority time-sharing, but to assist in providing the following to your children: housing (e.g. if your rent is $800 per month, then $400 of that is for your child); utilities (e.g. utility bill is $100 per month, $50 is for your child); gas for transportation to/from school, extracurricular activities, etc.; food for your child; clothing for your child; school activities. Like it or not, these things have to be provided and if the child is living with you 100% of the time, 20% of the time or 50% of the time, you are going to have to contribute, monetarily, to the needs of your children. So, it does not benefit you to fight for 50/50 just because your child support payments may be less. Fight for 50/50 only if you really think that it benefits your child in the long run.
If you need help in determining a good time-sharing plan, then the court may order you to participate in a social investigation where a neutral 3rd party can meet with the parents and the children to help determine a plan in their overall best interest.